Sir, - There is cause for real concern at the delay in finalising the future of the new Townlands Hospital in Henley.
Sir, - There is cause for real concern at the delay in finalising the future of the new Townlands Hospital in Henley.
The news from Councillor Ian Reissmann at last week?s town council meeting that the developer has downed tools and laid off staff came among his soothing protestations that the Oxfordshire NHS Primary Care Trust is committed and optimistic of financial closure after April 1 - significantly, the date when the trust ceases to exist.
Regretfully, the Townlands steering group, which Cllr Reissmann chairs, has heard many seductive words over the last 10 years as we successfully manoeuvred the present position.
However, it is now the time to look at a solution for Townlands in a new way:
l?To unlock the log jam in Whitehall among the decision makers.
l?To provide a better solution to the disposition of the new Townlands Hospital.
This solution should take the form of a new hospital on the Reading Road allotments site, land donated free by Henley Town Council and placed in a community trust for 999 years.
Adoption of this business model would more effectively follow the original criteria for development of a new hospital set up in 2005 by the steering group.
We argued specifically that any solution should have the ability to checkmate any attempt by the NHS in the future to close the new hospital. This solution would have major advantages for the NHS as it would:
l?Provide land at no cost for the new development
l?Allow the total sale of the present Townlands land for about £15?million and the proceeds would fund the new building costs - a no-cost solution for the NHS.
There are major advantages for Henley Town Council as it would:
l?Provide a large area for development close to the town centre of about 100 low-cost houses for young people.
l?Allow increased economic activity in the town from the new development, estimated at up to £1?million per annum.
l?Reduce car journeys in the town by some 30,000 per annum, improving air quality.
l?Show that the council had listened to the York Road/Hop Gardens/Mount View protesters.
There are advantages for us, the people, too as it would:
l?Enable custom-designed allotments on a new site.
l?Provide a new hospital close to low-cost housing at the YMCA, a staff-friendly solution.
l?Display the hospital effectively in a panoramic environment.
l?Provide an easily accessible hospital on a major transport route.
l?Decongest our medieval town.
Let us metaphorically stop the bus and think again for the good of our town in the long term.
Please, Henley Town Council, come together and help us to realise this improved dream even at this 11th hour. - Yours faithfully,
Barry G. Wood
Blandy Road, Henley
Sir, - My wife and I attended our first full Henley Town Council meeting last week in order to support our friend Lorraine Hillier who was being proposed for election as mayor.
During public questions, we asked whether there was one outstanding, deserving and long-serving councillor who has yet to be mayor and whether the Henley Residents? Group councillors would be prepared to rise above party lines and do the right thing. (Lorraine is the longest-
serving councillor who has never been mayor.)
The Mayor politely sidestepped the question by explaining that it was on the agenda for later in the meeting but one former councillor, speaking from the public gallery, decided he would answer the question for everybody and said that some councillors could achieve far more in two years on the council than other long-serving members had achieved in 14 years; it was not about how long someone had spent on the council but what they had actually done.
Our question is, therefore, what encouragement is there for anybody to work for the benefit of the town when their efforts can be so rudely dismissed like this?
Lorraine has worked very hard for many years and does not deserve to be snubbed and sneered at like this.
Other councillors made excellent contributions during the meeting, particularly about Councillor Hillier but, sadly, party lines prevailed and Lorraine was not elected.
After the voting on the question of the future mayor and deputy mayor was concluded, we decided to stay to the end of the meeting to observe how the council does its work and were surprised to witness a nasty personal attack by a former mayor, Ian Reissman, on his HRG colleague Jeni Wood over her sensible attempts to improve the grammar and punctuation of a council leaflet.
What made this surprising was not only the obvious intensity of feeling that he displayed, but it was made in front of the other political parties, several members of the public, town council staff and a representative of the Standard.
Cllr Reissmann went well over his allotted time and even after that still insisted on making a further point of order and point of explanation even though he quoted the wrong standing order.
We noted that when his points were put to the vote, he lost. We felt sympathy for Councillor Wood and thought that she coped with the attack with good grace.
All in all, we found it a fascinating experience to see the councillors in action in a full council meeting and would urge other members of the public to attend so they can see how councillors perform their roles that we have elected them to.
Although the mayor at one point inadvertently referred to the public gallery as the "audience", the public are not just there to listen to the councillors, we are the general public and council taxpayers, who elect the councillors to serve the town and community and time is set aside specifically for questions from the public.
We appreciate the hard work that councillors do put in but we are not just there as an audience for councillors to wash their dirty linen in public. - Yours faithfully,
Sir, - I want to share with you the reasons that we Conservatives believe that Councillor Lorraine Hillier deserves to be mayor of Henley.
As you will see from the nomination that follows below, we did not propose Lorraine for political reasons but for the good of our town.
As someone who has been mayor, I am fully aware of the commitment which goes with the role and the experience necessary to fully discharge the position with honour and dignity.
"We know that it is the norm for a member of the majority party to be elected as mayor but, as with every rule, there are times when the exception proves it and this is one of them.
"We would like to demonstrate very clearly that, this year, Councillor Lorraine Hillier should be that exception to the norm.
"Cllr Hillier is our longest-
serving town councillor to never be mayor. Those who have served the same or longer have all served our town very well as mayor. She has served Henley as a town and/or district councillor for 14 years.
"However we don?t believe that length of service alone is qualification for being mayor. It is what Cllr Hillier has done for our town during her time as a resident and as a councillor that qualifies her as the exception.
"She has been a true standard bearer for the businesses in our town. Since she opened the Hot Gossip coffee house in Friday Street six years ago she has effectively represented the business community to the council while retaining her ability to be objective when discussing the interests of the town and the interests of her fellow business people.
"Cllr Hillier?s commitment to the good of our town has most recently been proven by her involvement in the youth café project, Be There Henley. Hot Gossip is Lorraine?s livelihood and yet she was the first to volunteer the café as the venue for the young people of the town to go and have a place of their own.
"Cllr Hillier employs a number of the young people of our town on a regular basis and has now volunteered to train others and help them to understand everything from making a fabulously frothy cappuccino through to managing the profit and loss of a small business.
"Since opening Hot Gossip, she has proactively supported other businesses in the town and helped to launch the Henley Art Movement, which raised significant funds for a new boat for one of our local Olympic rowing hopefuls.
"Cllr Hillier does not stop there, she provides a stream of entertainment for Henley residents from supper clubs to reading clubs and a venue for the hugely successful Henley Fringe festival and Henley Literary Festival.
"Lorraine was also chairman of the town and general purposes committee, served on Britain in Bloom and helped to raise significant funds for good causes through her work with Henley Educational Charity and Henley Midnight Matinee.
"She also happens to be one of our most knowledgeable and experienced members of the town council?s planning committee.
"Cllr Hillier does not sound her own trumpet but works constantly, quietly and positively for the good of Henley and she is the only person on the council to have done so much for so long and not have been recognised by the honour of electing her as mayor.
"Nobody could ever say that they ?deserve? to be mayor but many have worked hard to earn that honour and represented our town very well.
"Cllr Hillier, as you have heard, has definitely earned the honour of serving Henley as mayor and, I hope, for that reason that you will agree that she is very much the exception to the norm."
The reaction from many residents proves that we are not the only ones who believe that Lorraine would have been an exceptional mayor. - Yours faithfully,
Councillor David Nimmo Smith
Henley Town Council, St Andrew?s Road, Henley
... and worthy deputy
Sir, - I would like to share the reasons that Councillor David Nimmo Smith was nominated [unsuccessfully] as deputy mayor for Henley.
"Councillor David Nimmo Smith is the longest-
serving town councillor and has served Henley as a town, district and country councillor for 30 years. This breadth and depth of experience would enable him to support the new mayor who was elected to the council less than two years ago.
"In the last 25 years he has committed to helping to improve the education and wellbeing of our young people. David is, or has been, a governor at five schools in Henley, including chairman of the governors at Gillotts, The Henley College and three primary schools.
"Further proof, if it is needed, of Cllr Nimmo Smith?s commitment to the young people of the town is his support of some very valuable groups, including Nomad, the Rainbow children?s centre and Henley Youth Centre. He has helped them financially through allocation of county council grants and by extensive lobbying on their behalf at both district and county council meetings.
"He has been a true standard bearer for many of the valuable projects and developments in our town, including fund-raising for Henley Town Football Club, Nomad and Henley Good Neighbours, and supporting very important institutions such as the Citizens Advice Bureau and the River and Rowing Museum.
"Cllr Nimmo Smith?s commitment to the good of our town has most recently been proved by his proactive membership of the neighbourhood plan working group.
"His work doesn?t stop at the Henley boundaries, he also protects our fabulous views through his membership of the Chilterns Conservation Board, helping to protect the stunning countryside in the hills behind Henley.
"Cllr Nimmo Smith has helped give the bowls club a new pavilion, the rugby club protection of its home at Dry Lees, the hockey club pitches and a pavilion at Jubilee Park and the football club financial assistance.
"He also helped save the town council tens of thousands of pounds in 2012 for the repairs required at Red Lion Lawn. He is a hugely experienced engineer and applied that knowledge and a significant amount of his personal time to ensure that we did not waste vast sums of money on unnecessary work.
"Cllr Nimmo Smith works constantly, quietly and positively for the good of Henley. None of us could ever say that we ?deserve? to be deputy mayor but David has certainly worked hard to earn that honour." - Yours faithfully,
Councillor Samantha Evans
Henley Town Council,
Reading Road, Henley
Shops have responsibility
Sir, - I fully concur with the previous letters regarding the deplorable service at the One Stop shop in Sonning Common.
It is also of great concern that we have lost the community aspect, which was so much part of the service previously offered.
Within the last few years, all the staff living in and around the village have left. The bewildering number of new and very part-time staff, though perfectly polite, come in on the bus from Reading and it is obvious that they neither know the local community nor have any interest in them.
This is exemplified by the fact that after years of One Stop staff holding the keys to the village hall next door and willingly handing them out to hirers, they have now decided to stop this invaluable service.
The comment made by a member of staff was: "Well, there is nothing in it for us."
Without a local keyholder there is a real possibility that the village hall management committee will have to reconsider the hours that the hall can be open in the evening.
The rapidly deteriorating surface of the forecourt is another matter of concern. I have had protracted communications with Christian Clarke, the property manager for One Stop, who now ignores my emails.
After months of requests, the forecourt was patched up and is now, if anything, worse than before with potholes filling with water and ice.
I appealed to the Tesco [parent company] head office and met with little response.I intend to speak with the Co-op store manager who is, unlike the manager at One Stop, readily available and regularly to be seen in the shop, to see if they will become the keyholders and set an example about the moral responsibilities that I believe a store within our village should have towards the residents. - Yours faithfully,
Councillor Chrissie Phillips-Tilbury
Sonning Common Parish Council, Woodlands Road, Sonning Common
Sir, - In most areas of life, it is the minority who can give the majority a bad name. This seems particularly true when dealing with the subject of dog walkers.
Do they all allow their dogs to foul the pavements and footpaths and intimidate joggers? Clearly not, although on occasions it can seem so!
Your correspondent John Ewans, though, is right to highlight the plight of joggers (Standard, March 1). Years of experience as a runner have taught me to identify the awkward dogs who seem intent on sinking their teeth into one?s calves; it is invariably the smaller breeds, or "ankle-biters" that inflict the damage.
I understand that from the point of view of a protective dog, the horror of a jogger, resplendent in a high visibility jacket and dodgy running tights, can be an unnerving sight. For the runner, usually, giving the irked animal a wide berth does the trick.
Please though, dog owners, as Mr Ewans pointed out, we do not know your dog and do not wish to become acquainted with its gnashers. Well-meaning cries of "oh he?s just being friendly" really do not offer any reassurance at all when you are being pursued.
Runners, too, should keep their distance. There is very little point in running directly towards a potential confrontation, although sometimes it is unavoidable on a narrow path. Even slowing down to a walking pace can still provoke frenzied excitement.
It is always an enormous relief when a dog which is straining every sinew is hindered by the presence of a lead.
On the plus side, being chased by a "playful" canine, does tend to lead to a personal best and the post-run aroma of dog excrement lingers like a fresh spring breeze on the souls of our blood-soaked trainers. - Yours faithfully,
Orchard Avenue, Sonning Common
Thanks for sorting fund-raising gear
Sir, — Some months ago, you were kind enough to publish an appeal from the Henley Lions Club for a storage facility for our fund- raising equipment.
I am very pleased to report that Henley Self Storage on the Newtown Estate responded to that appeal.
All of our fund raising kit, including our 3,000 competition racing ducks, have been successfully moved to a new storage facility. Can we please pass on our thanks to Darren West and his team at Henley Self Storage for all their help.
You’ll note that it was snowing as we were moving all our kit! — Yours faithfully,
Secretary, Henley Lions Club
Challenge is NIMBY-fest
Sir, — It appears to me that the staging of the Henley Challenge event has become a classic example of a vocal NIMBY minority getting their voices heard well above others to try and drive a good event out of our area. This vocal minority also seem to be directly against the idea of anybody making a profit, which also makes me wonder how, without the benefit of profit, they themselves came to be living in such an expensive area as Henley. Anyway, I digress.
I believe there is a silent majority in and around our area who support Challenge Henley. In particular I am thinking about all those parents who believe it’s a good thing for their children to see people swimming, biking, running and generally showing signs of positivity, commitment, determination and healthy living. Especially considering it was only seven months ago we got such a buzz from this at London 2012. It’s clear there are challenges with running the event, but the naysayers (if they are honest) aren’t really interested in working through these. They simply want the event to go away.
The only true test to decide whether the residents of Henley and its surrounding areas support the event is to hold a referendum. I therefore call on John Howell MP to facilitate this vote with a simple question: “Do you think the town of Henley should be hosting the Challenge Henley event? Yes or No?”
However, I’m afraid that if the promises of referenda given by politicians nationally are anything to go by we might have to wait until 2015 for anything to happen. And by that time I fear the naysayers will already have had their way and Henley will have lost a great and inspirational event. — Yours faithfully,
Chiltern Close, Henley
Brainstorm session invite
Sir, — Did you enjoy the Henley Living Advent Calendar last year and the year before? Would you like to see it continue as an annual event in Henley?
If so, we’d love you to join us over a drink on Tuesday, March 12, from 6pm to 7pm at the Victoria, 48 Market Place. We need your ideas on how we can make it even more enjoyable and successful for the town. If you fancy getting involved as a venue, partner, sponsor, performer or helper in any way, or simply have some good thoughts on improving it, please come along.
For any other information or anything related to the Living Advent Festival, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org — Yours faithfully,
Chairman, Henley Partnership and Henley Living Advent Calendar
Good on yer, Hobbs
Sir, — I refer to your article in the business section, of the Standard on March 1, under the heading Back To The Future.
I am really delighted that Hobbs of Henley will again be offering opportunities for motor cruiser/yacht holidays on the River Thames. Having often eyed with some envy the cruiser fleet moored by the Riverside Café at Benson, it will be great to know that we may get a comparable facility in Henley.
As one who has had both sailing and motor cruiser holidays on the Norfolk Broads in the past, I for one will be keen — prices permitting — to try cruising on the far more extensive, and probably more interesting, reaches of the River Thames. So, I am sure, will be the foreign clientèle the venture is partly aimed at.
Good on you, Hobbs of Henley. I wish you every success. — Yours faithfully,
Cllr David Silvester
Henley Town Council
Sir, — The Shiplake and Dunsden Branch of the Royal British Legion are pleased to announce that the total of monies raised from street collections and static points in Shiplake, Binfield Heath and Dunsden for 2012 came to a grand total of £4,426.44. Many thanks to all concerned.
A presentation on time spent in Afghanistan and today’s role of the RAF Regiment by Flight Lieutenant Daff Jones will be held at the Memorial Hall, Shiplake, on Friday, April 5 at 7.30pm. There will be a bar and light refreshments. Tickets at £5 each are available from Rosemary Jones (telephone 0118 948 1517). All proceeds to the Poppy Appeal. — Yours faithfully,
Mrs Rosemary Jones
Shiplake and Dunsden branch, Royal British Legion
Thanks to Samaritans
Sir, — I would just ilke to thank so much the two gentlemen who stopped their car to give me a lift last Sunday morning.
I was out on a walk with my husband, friends and a dog high in the hills above the Stonor valley when my dog cut herself really badly on a piece of barbed wire, opening a huge wound in her stomach.
Our car was parked two miles away so I ran down the road and tried to hitch a lift to get to my car quickly, to get her some emergency treatment whilst my husband carried her down the hill.
These gentlemen gave me a lift to my car so that we could get her to an emergency vet that much quicker.
There were several cars that passed me first — some families, some just with two people and some with a single driver all choosing not to stop for me.
I am a middle-aged woman it was 11.30 last Sunday morning. If I looked threatening to those of you who passed me by who could clearly see that I was upset then I am sorry if I upset you!
I understand that in this day and age you have to be careful, but I honestly can’t believe that I looked threatening. If anything, I was the one taking more of a risk.
What a shame. But thanks again to the two kind gentlemen who did stop to help me. It was much appreciated. — Yours faithfully,
Name and address supplied
Saga of the potholes
Sir, — I recently went to Henley Council regarding large holes in the road by the Plowden Arms pub. I then phoned up the roads department and told them the holes were so deep that if a motorcylist hit one of them he could be killed.
A team came out and filled in two holes — but left another two!
However, I am determined not to give way. I will deal with them again. — Yours faithfully,